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Monday, September 24, 2018

WHY HORROR?



Why are we drawn to horror? Why are good girls drawn to bad boys?

 

1.) The allure of the forbidden.
 

That is one of the reasons horror beckons to us from out of the shadows.

Why is that boy, that deserted mansion, forbidden?

It is as old as the blood which pulsed cold and tingling through Eve's veins as she reached for that forbidden fruit on that hauntingly lovely tree.

 

2.) Curiosity.

It is human nature to want to know what lies over the horizon. It's what drove the pioneers across wild, hostile lands.

What does that locked door conceal? That chained chest. Why those heavy links, that rusted lock?

Is this all there is? Or is there more beyond mere line of sight? We know there is more.

Science tells of us of dark matter piercing the cosmos with light-years long strands of matter invisible to the human eye. 


We are likewise blind to the world of germs. What other worlds are we blind to?

Give a nugget of uranium, a tiny stone really, to an aborigine. Tell him it is a good luck charm. Tell him to drop it in the village well.

What harm could one tiny stone do? 


Visit his village two months later. View the many corpses laying strewn like dead dreams all across the ground.

3.) Identification.
 

We watch and imagine what we would do in like situations. 

The world dissolves into chaos as random individuals descend slowly into madness.

You are picked up by the local sheriff as you are doing your morning walk with your dog. 


He orders you and your dog into the back of the car. 

He presses his gun to your dog's head and rambles on about brains looking like wet oysters. Do you want to see?

What would you do? What could you do?

Life is frightening: 


Global warming. Diseases that eat the very flesh of your body. 

We watch horor on the screen to encapsulate the horror of real life. It is not us up there.

We would be smarter, faster, more in control of our emotions.

We like the adrenaline rush sudden scares give us. 


Safer than driving fast, dating inappropriate guys or gals, and with the thrill of saying mentally, "It's not real; I'm still safe."

 

4.) The Darkness Within.

Terror versus Horror. 


Is one more physical; the other more mental? 

Does revulsion and squriming terror pierce through our mental barriers to stab deep into our unconscious fears ... and desires?

(Take the public fascination with the trilogy of the girl with the dragon tattoo:

she is repeatedly brutalized, raped, shot, and beaten. 


The books and movies are bestsellers. 

Is there a darkness in us that wants to roll around in sadism like a cat does catnip?)

You are horrified by the news of the floods in Pakistan. 


You are terrorized when you wake up one New Orleans morning to the news that the dams have burst, 

and you look out your front door to see rushing waters swallow your neighbor's home ... then your very own.    
Horror is realizing the monsters are real and are out there to get you. 

Terror is looking into the mirror, seeing yourself becoming one -- but still enough you to scream silently at the sight.

Stephen King said horror literature is a means for us to take out the monster, play with it for a while, and put it back.

But who is the monster?

Is he some squirming presence waiting on the other side of the dimensional wall waiting for a crack to appear? 


Is he the beloved president whose wife is slowly going insane at the awful reality of who he truly is?

Or does his/her eyes stare back at you from the mirror?

Carl Jung:
"Everyone carries a shadow, 


and the less it is embodied in the individual’s conscious life, the blacker and denser it is. 

At all counts, it forms an unconscious snag, thwarting our most well-meant intentions."

Why do you think we read horror? 


Why are we so drawn to dressing up as monsters or as our secret identities? 

Why do you write the genres you do? 

And what role does "control" or "lack of control" play in horror/scary movies and literature?
***


Friday, September 21, 2018

WHAT MAKES A BOOK SKYROCKET?


{Midnight Reading My Latest}

What makes a particular book seize the imagination of the general public

and propel its author from comfortable relative obscurity to superstardom?

You must touch on something core and essential in our psyches:

the combined ache of life, love and our own mortality.

 And you must do it with realism rather than over-sentimentality.  

But no one controls that all important WORD OF MOUTH ...

and that is what will propel our work up the sales rankings.

Make this your Mantra:


NO ONE KNOWS ANYTHING.

How do I know that?

Because if the Big 5 Publishers or John Green or Stephen King knew it,

every book would skyrocket like THE FAULT IN OUR STARS or THE STAND.

DR. NO, FORREST GUMP, E.T., RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK,

were all rejected by the majors studios at least twice before being accepted.



WHAT CAN YOU DO?



1.) Write Something NEW

Do yourself a favor and choose to write a book with a totally new and unexpected hook.

This bakes marketing and word of mouth into the content and sets you up for a perennial seller.

Make your core story simple, spreadable, articulable idea to generate word of mouth.

If your core story is confusing or unclear, it makes it very difficult to market. 


2.) Write Something Well

 Professional editing is essential for self-published authors because it's the easiest way to separate the professionals from the amateurs.


3.) Package Your Book To Sell

You can't skimp on design!

Why would you spend all this time writing a book, and then get a shitty cover design?

Think: Will this cover catch the eye in an Amazon thumbnail?


4.) Title Your Book To Win

DON'T STOP NOW, YOU'RE KILLING ME!

was a great psychology text on the sado-masochistic tangoes human dance in their dealings with one another.

Come up with a title that will bring the roving eye of a browser to a stop.


5.) Launch Your Book Like A Three Stage Missile

Thinking short term and rushing your book to market prevents you from coordinating a good launch.

 Velocity is crucial when your book hits the market,

so you have to concentrate your sales push to the first week because this helps you get hit bestsellers lists

(not just the New York Times but on Amazon and Goodreads), which drives even more attention.

Just hitting #1 even for a moment on Amazon or Goodread allows you to put a banner on your cover

with the #1 marketing bestseller designation, giving your book even more social momentum.


6.) Create a Mythos For Yourself

Learn from the Texas Rangers. 

They encouraged tales to be told of them. 

The outlaws' perception of them was often the edge that kept them alive.

Build your brand.

Your bio and your Amazon page are like business cards.

 Brand yourself, reinvent yourself, whatever. Just don't waste the opportunity.

You will be shocked at how often these self-descriptions

are borrowed and repeated in the media until they become true.


7.) Price Yourself IN Their Reach

Remember as a struggling author discovery is your big hurdle.

 An eternity in obscurity is the fate for most authors.

Why should people give you their cash?

Why should they give you their time?

It's crucial that your pricing makes your book accessible, especially early on.

Do not discourage people from taking a chance on you.



I HOPE THIS HELPS YOUR NEXT BOOK SOAR LIKE AN EAGLE
or
LIKE THE XANADU!


DON'T FORGET TO BUY MY
LATEST AUDIO BOOK!

or

MY HALLOWEEN SPECIAL

Thursday, September 20, 2018

WEEP NOT FOR THE UNDEAD


I am Margaret Fuller.

You may recognize my name from the adventures of Samuel McCord and that scamp, Victor Standish.


https://www.amazon.com/The-Not-so-Innocents-Abroad/dp/B07G9XZTDC/
 

History has me drowned upon this date in 1850 aged forty. 

In 1853, when Captain Samuel McCord met me aboard the cursed DEMETER, I was still all too alive.

Shortly thereafter, I became a unique form of undead. But then, I have always been unique -- alive or undead.

My beliefs (feminist and Transcendentalist), accomplishments and fervent personality put me in the spotlight throughout my life,

but my "last" years, spent in Rome supporting the short-lived Roman Republic, reached an operatic level of passion and poignancy.

As foreign correspondent of Horace Greeley's New York Tribune, 


I argued the cause of the Italian revolutionists in the dispatches sent home.

In Rome, I assisted on the Republican ramparts and in their field hospitals.

I also married an Italian nobleman who was prominent in the Republican cause, and had a son by him. 


{Courtesy Alessandro Antonelli}

With the ramparts fallen and my husband in jeopardy, I reluctantly decided to return to America, 

despite premonitions of disaster and warnings from Emerson and other Concord friends 

that my socialist leanings and doubtful marriage would provoke public disfavor.

As if I have ever cared what the rabble thought. 


When my boat ran aground just off the New York coast,

I chose to stay with my husband, who could not swim. 

Both of us were washed to sea and never found, (so history reports).

But Henry (David Thoreau) found me washed upon the shore not far from my young boy’s body.

The memorial to me put up by my family reads,

“Born a child of New England, / By adoption a citizen of Rome, / By genius belonging to the World.” 



My genius has never been in question.

Edgar Allan Poe thought me such. He believed that the fallacy in my lobby for women's rights was that

"She judges woman by the heart and intellect of Miss Fuller, but there are not more than one or two dozen Miss Fullers on the whole face of the earth."
 


Poe’s evaluation is echoed in comments by Emerson and Hawthorne — 

though they let slip that their attraction might be more than intellectual

(as it was)

when they both referred to me in print as “Margaret Fuller, the Sexy Muse.”

I now know all the people worth knowing in America,


and I find no intellect comparable to my own except for dear Ada (Byron, Lady Loveless - 

author of the first computer language a 100 years before the invention of the computer itself.)

McCord has his moments, but he is restrained by his Victorian ideals and code that he will not cast aside. 


I love him for his nobility. 

It will be the death of him.

What will be the death of you? 


I wager your friends know even if you do not. I leave you with a bit of my own verse:

“Let me gather from the Earth,
one full grown fragrant flower,
Let it bloom within my bosom
through its one fragile hour….”

 

Of my past, I neither rejoice nor grieve, for bad or good, I acted out my character.

***

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

THE SOUL SELECTS


I was sitting alone at my table in the darkened Meilori's.  

The light of my laptop showed the dismal numbers of those who have bought my books this month.

Fingertips pressed softly on my shoulder.  "May this wayward soul sit down?"

I looked up.  Emily Dickinson, dressed in a black Victorian dress, stood smiling sadly at me.


Her voice was gentle, low, and caring.  

I smiled back.  "Of course."

I got up and pulled out the chair for her.  She flowed down into as lady-like ghosts often do here at Meilori's.

As I sat back down, Emily slid a small volume to me.  Its cover was dark and light lavender.  Its simple title: POEMS ~ Emily Dickinson.

"This first volume of my poetry appeared on this day in 1890, two years after my death.  

My early editors, the critic Thomas Higginson and family friend Mabel Loomis Todd, made many changes in an effort to make my poems more 'conventional,' but these had not allayed the priggish critics."

 Emily picked up the volume from in front of me and read one of her "versicles" as her critics called them:

"The soul selects her own society,
Then shuts the door;
On her divine majority
Obtrude no more.

Unmoved, she notes the chariot's pausing
At her low gate;
Unmoved, an emperor is kneeling
Upon her mat.

I've known her from an ample nation
Choose one
Then close the valves of her attention
Like stone.
"

Emily withdrew a folded newspaper clipping from her dress pocket.

"I told others that my critics bothered me not.  But here is the lie: this aged review by Thomas Bailey Aldrich from THE ATLANTIC MONTHLY of January, 1892.  

It reads as follows:

'But the incoherence and formlessness of her — I don't know how to designate them — versicles are fatal…. 

An eccentric, dreamy, half-educated recluse in an out-of-the-way New England village (or anywhere else) cannot with impunity set at defiance the laws of gravitation and grammar.'"

Her hand gently covered mine.  "You are of worth, young sir, because you care.  Your prose is of worth if only one soul is uplifted because of it."

Emily smiled, 

“I know nothing in the world that has as much power as a word. Sometimes I write one, and I look at it, until it begins to shine.  I read one of yours and it does the same."

Her eyes sparkled,   

“We turn not older with years but newer every day.  You are newer today than yesterday for you have suffered, you have learned -- so you are a new you."


The ghost of Mark Twain sat down beside me with a laugh.


 "Besides, son, where are those critics of Miss Dickinson here now?  Who do folks remember?  Emily Dickinson or that Thomas Bailey Aldrich?"

He winked at Emily who blushed, and he grinned,

"I believe that the trade of critic, in literature, music, and the drama, is the most degraded of all trades, and that it has no real value--certainly no large value...

However, let it go. It is the will of God that we must have critics, and missionaries, and congressmen, and humorists, and we must bear the burden."

Emily scolded him.  "That is all very well and good, Samuel, but what about your feelings for poor Miss Jane Austen?"

{Notice Midnight perched on the mantle behind Mark's ghost}

Mark looked like he had bitten into a slug.  

"Agh!  You're right, of course.  I haven't any right to criticize books.  And I don't do except when I hate them!"

He rubbed his face. 


"I often want to criticize Jane Austen it is true.  But, Lordy, her books madden me so that I can't conceal my frenzy from the reader.  Therefore I have to stop every time I begin."

He took out a cigar and lit it as Emily's nose wrinkled in distaste and went on, 


"Everytime I read PRIDE AND PREJUDICE I want to dig her up and beat her over the skull with her own shin-bone!"  

Emily gently removed the cigar from his mouth, putting it out defiantly.  "It is so heartening to see how you have mellowed with age, Samuel."

He glared at me.  "Now, you see why gentlemen are a dying breed, Roland."

"Or at least a smokeless one," I smiled.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

What profit is there in you writing a short story?



A short story is a love affair; 
a novel is a marriage." 
- Lorrie Moore


In this modern, fast-paced culture ...

An intense love affair is often preferred over an all-consuming marriage.

You would think then that the short story would be more popular than it is ...


Which Brings Us to My
Not So Subtle Request
to gamble $1.99
on my latest:



Stephen King, at the start of his career, thought of a short story as a quick kiss in the dark from a stranger.

And like with kisses, some short stories are better than others!

In the beginning of his writing struggles, Mr. King thought of his short stories as a series of pinatas he banged on --

not with a stick but with his imagination. 

Sometimes they broke and showered down a few hundred dollars.  Other times they did not.

It was an easier market to sell short stories then.  Now, not so much. 

SO WHY SHOULD WE BANG 
ON THE PINATAS 
OF SHORT STORIES 
IN THIS HARSH MARKET?


1.)  IT HELPS YOU WRITE LEAN

Each scene in your novel should be spare and lean so that the drama stands out like stirring chords in a soundtrack.

The limited space in a short story forces you to keep only what is absolutely needed 

to paint the scene and leave the rest behind.

Like Elmore Leonard advised -- Leave out the boring stuff.


2.) SHORT STORIES APPEAL TO OUR MICROWAVE CULTURE

Many readers feel that they do not have the free time to commit to a whole novel.  

They want entertainment in bite sizes.

Why do you think James Patterson writes mini-chapters?

Short stories can be read in a doctor's office or before you drift off to sleep.


3.) WRITING SHORT STORIES SAVES THOSE NEAT IDEAS THAT ARE NOT UP TO FILLING OUT A NOVEL.

How many times have you come with intriguing ideas 

that you know do not have the essence of an entire novel with its many character arcs?

You have this riveting scene with sizzling dialogue that seems to exist all on its own

 with no future beyond that moment.

A short story is perfect for that idea.


4.) SHORT STORIES PROVIDE THE PERFECT BRIDGES TO MAINTAIN INTEREST IN YOUR NOVEL SERIES 

A book can take anywhere from one to two years to complete.

Publishing short stories with the same characters can keep the interest high in your world or with your prose.


5.)  SHORT STORY ANTHOLOGIES INTRODUCE YOU TO A WHOLE NEW AUDIENCE

Also be careful in submitting your story to anthologies whose cause or company of authors mesh well with your voice and personality.

Getting your "prose voice" out there may well draw you additional fans. 

Do You Write Short Stories?

Do You Read Anthologies of Short Stories?

Why?  Why Not?

Just Because this makes me laugh: 

Thursday, September 13, 2018

HOW TO WRITE A GREAT 1ST CHAPTER

We all know how important first impressions are ...

Well, first chapters are our first impressions with readers, editors, and agents.

Take the LOOK INSIDE feature to your book on its Amazon page.  The prospective buyer will probably give you 30 seconds ...

which is the first paragraph at the most.  

If it teases them to read the whole first chapter, then that chapter better be Oscar Worthy.


1.) TENSE AREN'T YOU?

First person, past tense tends to draw the reader into the mind of your character, 

but write in the tense in which you think your novel's action in your head.  

It will feel most natural to you and in the end, to the reader.



2.) IN THE BEGINNING ...

The first chapter must ensnare the reader.  

I still remember that iconic scene in ROGUE NATION with Rebecca Fergeson in the opera house high back-stage ...

arching her long leg in the slit skirt to rest her elbow of the arm holding the rifle to kill Tom Cruise.


Scenes teasing sex and action always rivet.

But the first scene of that movie was Tom Cruise hanging on for his life on a plane's wing as it took off, yelling for Simon Pegg to open that damn door!

Start where your story hits the ground running.


3.) BOND.  JAMES BOND

Introduce a strong character right away.  "Call me Ishmael."

When designing your Chapter One, establish your characters’ situation(s). 

What do they know at the beginning? 


 What will they learn going forward? 


What does their world mean to them?



4.) IT WAS A DARK AND STORMY NIGHT

As with movie monsters, less is more with a novel's setting right at the beginning.

Your reader will fill in the blanks for you if you but deftly sketch in a few striking details.

"It was the sort of alley where a wino would hole up in to die." 


5.) THE DEVIL IS IN THE DETAILS

Despite what I wrote above, details are important.  

But you must be laser-accurate with as few of them as you can manage.

The plastic restraints hurt.  But they did not hurt as much as that scalpel would.  It hovered over his right eye.

His nose wrinkled at the whisky on the breath of the surgeon as she slurred, "I know you are wondering why I am doing this to you."


6.) MAKE YOUR 1ST CHAPTER A MINI-ME

It’s no accident that many great novels have first chapters 

that were excerpted in magazines, where they essentially stood as short stories.

 Every chapter should have its own plot, none more important than Chapter One.

 Focus on action.

 Be decisive. 

A good way to do that is to make a character take decisive action.

The first chapter should have an arc and closure 

that promises more of the same or that the victory was really a hollow one unrealized by the protagonist.


Here's wishing you a best-seller that will make you rich and famous! 


Tuesday, September 11, 2018

OVER A MILLION SERVED!



Over one million readers have visited 
my blog!

Great, right?

You want to know how many author blogs
get a million views A MONTH?

Don't ask.  
It's depressing.


No matter how many millions
visit their blogs
 
MOST WRITERS WON'T 
MAKE ANY MONEY

“It’s called a ‘best-selling author,’ 
not ‘best author.’” 
-Robert Kiyosaki

MANY WRITERS THINK TOO SMALL 

"Better to aim for the moon and miss, 
than aim for mediocrity and hit." 
- Mark Twain

If you think small, that’s what you get. 

Most writers don’t think big, 

 and therefore don’t create big products which produce big results.

Listen to the very first self-published mega-author,
Mark Twain

“There is such a thing as a technically gifted 
yet very boring and unsuccessful writer.”

LEARN THE BUSINESS END OF WRITING

 Subscription publishing was considered a ‘low class’ method of publishing :

many new authors who did not yet have the following to be picked up by major publishing houses, 

elected to try ‘subscription publishing’. 

 Elisha Bliss was a pioneer in this kind of publishing 

and he took Twain on the trip to success & money with him. 

Clemens was not too proud to learn and worked to understand publishing, 

using the skills he learned in newspaper reporting to pen the classic THE INNOCENTS ABROAD


It’s easy to get a million views from a random viral article with the right keywords.

It’s hard to gain true fans who consistently read your work and buy your books month after month.

 “Successful people do 
what unsuccessful people are unwilling to do -

leave the comfort of the known road 
and strike out in a new direction." 
 - MarkTwain

 WHAT DO YOU THINK?